Ectopic Kidney (Abnormal Position of the Kidney)

Ectopic kidney is a birth defect of the urinary tract in which a kidney is located in an abnormal position. Normally, the kidneys are located near the back and one on each side of the spine. They are partially protected by the lower ribs at the back. A person with ectopic kidney may have his or her kidney located above, below, or on the opposite side of its usual position.

It is estimated that ectopic kidney occurs once in every 1,000 births. One kidney is usually affected. Often, people with this disorder do not experience signs or symptoms. In some cases, however, the ectopic kidney may cause blockage to urine flow, urinary tract infection (UTI), or urinary stones.

If ectopic kidney does not cause any complications, it may not require any special medical treatment or intervention.


The baby’s kidneys first appear as buds inside the pelvis during fetal development. The fetal kidneys, as they develop, gradually climb toward their normal position near the rib cage at the back. However, in some cases, one of the kidneys fails to make the climb or remain in the pelvis. In other cases, an ectopic kidney may cross over and become fused with the other kidney.


Many people with the disorder may not notice that they have an ectopic kidney because they do not experience any symptoms. Some of the signs may include a lump in the abdomen or abdominal pain.

Some signs or symptoms may also occur as a result of complications of ectopic kidney.

Complications and their signs and symptoms:

Urinary tract infection
 Painful or frequent urination
 Back or abdominal pain
 Fever and chills
Urinary stones
 Extreme pain in the back, sides, or pelvis
 Blood in the urine (hematuria)
 Fever or chills
 Vomiting
 Nausea
 Burning sensation while urinating
Kidney failure
 Feeling very tired
 Swelling in the legs or abdomen
 Headaches
 Nausea

Since ectopic kidney may not cause any symptoms, you may not notice that you have it. Your doctor may discover the kidney in an abnormal position while checking for other health problems.

Imaging tests are important diagnostic tools in the diagnosis of ectopic kidney. These include ultrasound, intravenous pyelogram (IVP), or voiding cystourethrogram (VCUG).

Additional tests, such as blood tests, may be recommended by your doctor to determine how well your kidneys are working.


Treatment may not be necessary if your doctor finds no blockage and urinary function is normal. However, continuous monitoring of your condition should be done in case a change occurs.

Surgery may be necessary only if obstruction is present that blocks normal urine flow. The position of the kidney is corrected to allow better drainage of urine.

In some cases where extensive damage has occurred, the surgeon may need to remove the kidney. Losing one kidney is not a problem as long as the other kidney is working properly. Although caring for the remaining kidney is necessary to prevent future damage. Many people with one normal kidney, either they have donated one or they were born with one kidney, live normal, productive lives.

With proper testing and treatment, if necessary, an ectopic kidney should cause no serious health problems.

National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Ectopic Kidney. Available at http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/kidney-disease/ectopic-kidney/Pages/facts.aspx
National Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD. NIH Publication No. 07-5869, June 2012. Retrieved April 10, 2016

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